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December 10, 2009

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Return to China possible: fugitive

CHINA'S most wanted fugitive now hiding in Canada said he could return to his home country voluntarily if authorities agreed to three conditions.

Lai Changxing, a native of Xiamen City, Fujian Province, is accused of masterminding the biggest smuggling ring in China.

He said he will consider returning home before his legal fight to stay in Canada ends if Chinese authorities promise to publicize the court records of those involved in his case 10 years ago, China Newsweek magazine reported yesterday.

He told the magazine the records will prove that he simply took advantage of loopholes in Chinese law.

He claimed that he was only guilty of tax evasion.

Lai's second condition was for those chief members of his ring who were jailed to "have another court hearing," to get reduced sentences as he is the main criminal.

As his final condition, Lai wants changes made to the team of police officers and prosecutors investigating his case to ensure fairness.

Lai's comments came after China and Canada vowed last week to deepen judicial cooperation. Better cooperation would speed up the process of repatriating Chinese criminals in Canada.

There are now 69 Chinese criminals in Canada awaiting repatriation. Lai is not included on the list as he is still fighting a legal battle to stay in Canada and evade punishment if sent back to China.

Lai admitted in August that he missed his hometown badly and longed to return "one day in the future."

He told the magazine that every day in the past 10 years was "like torture" and that he even attempted suicide by smashing his head against an airport pillar when he was about to be sent back to China in 2006. However, the attempt was believed to be staged so Lai could stay in Canada.

Lai's smuggling ring reportedly handled US$6.8 billion in goods and evaded $US3.8 billion in taxes.

Fourteen people were sentenced to death and more than 200 officials were punished in cases related to Lai's ring.

Canadian law forbids the repatriation of criminals if they will face the death penalty upon their return.

The Chinese government promised in 2001 not to execute Lai if he is returned.


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